What is a Last Will and Testament


A Delaware Last Will and Testament, when prepared and executed properly by a person who is an adult of sound mind with legal responsibility for his- or herself, is a formal document that specifies how their assets or estate will be managed and distributed after their death. The person who dies is formally referred to as the decedent. If the decedent has minor children, the Last Will and Testament may also be used to designate who they want to care for their children and who they wish to handle their childrenís inheritance/finances until each child comes of age (usually 18, but you can designate a different age) to handle their finances on their own.

In a Last Will and Testament, the decedent usually also names a personal representativeóor co-personal representatives (two or more persons acting together in this capacity)óto manage the matters of the estate. The personal representative is the person who gathers all of the information about the decedentís debts and assets, pays outstanding debts using the assets on behalf of the estate, and ensures that the decedentís property is distributed as specified in the Will, so this is a job with a lot of responsibility, and the personal representative selected is usually someone the decedent really trusts to follow through on the details and with his or her wishes.

If a person dies without having a valid Last Will and Testament (which usuallyóin most statesómeans it must be properly witnessed, as wellónot just signed), someone will usually be appointed by the court to be the personal representative and will pay the decedentís debts, liquidizing assets as necessary to do so. Then the remaining assets will be distributed among the decedentís heirs according to the laws of the state the decedent lived in.

In some states, if one spouse dies leaving behind a husband or wife, that living spouse will inherit all of the decedentís property in the absence of a Last Will and Testament stating to the contrary. In other cases, the decedent may have specified a particular beneficiary to inherit a life insurance policy, retirement account, or other asset, and that beneficiary designation will dictate who receives those assets in the absence of a Delaware Last Will and Testament.

The important thing to note is that anyone who wishes to designate how their assets will be distributed after their death should prepare and properly execute a Last Will and Testament to ensure their wishes are known and honored. If they donít, they may be leaving it up to chance, the laws of the state in which they reside at the time of their death, or a court of law as to how their final affairs will be settled.  Delaware free information on last will and testament forms.

Legal Requirements for Last Wills in Delaware

Under Delaware law, the property of a deceased is automatically distributed among relatives. The spouse, descendants, and parents of a dead person are considered the closest heirs. They are followed by brothers, sisters, and other relatives. If you are familiar with the distribution of shares of your estate and agree with it, you do not have to make a testament. However, if you want to establish your own order of inheritance of your property, write your Last Will.

What Is a Will for in Delaware?

The paper is intended to fulfill the will of the deceased to inherit their property. If the testator wants to appoint certain persons as heirs or transfer part of the money to an organization, they specify it in their testament.

Here are the main cases when the document defines the terms for the distribution of the deceasedís property:

  • Transfer movable and immovable property by inheritance

  • Provide care for elderly parents or minor children, as well as arrange pet care

  • Donate to a charitable foundation or another trust.

By means of a will, you can appoint as heirs exactly those persons among your relatives whom you would like. In the absence of a testament, the court determines the order of inheritance according to the general Delaware law. A person can prepare a printed document or write by hand, but in the latter case, the form of the will must meet the official requirements of the state.

If a person made a will and then divorced, the rules of inheritance of estate by their spouse become invalid. Most likely, the testator will have to prepare a new document or amend the current one.

In What Cases Does a Will not Apply?

A testament allows a person to distribute the inheritance of their property on their own, but the will of the deceased does not cover all cases. Delaware laws establish rules for part of the estate to be distributed regardless of the will of the testator.

It applies to a jointly acquired estate with the right of inheritance. This property automatically passes to the living spouse of the deceased. Besides, the spouse is entitled to an elective share of the property. If you specify in the will a condition that contradicts Delaware laws, it will not be accepted by the court. State law always takes priority in these matters. In other cases, the testator has the legal right to establish their terms of inheritance.

Changing and Canceling a Will

Given that a Delaware resident can make a will starting at the age of 18, each testator has enough time to change their plans. For this purpose, there is a special amendment to the will (codicil), which the testator can do as many times as necessary.

The testator has the option to cancel the will completely. You can revoke the will or make a new one that cancels the previous document. Please note that each time you change or cancel the paper, it must be legalized at the local government office. Otherwise it will not be valid.



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